Many years ago, I performed a piece called Shedding Skins. It was about how as we mature, we change our beliefs. I had on different personae outfits that I shed as I did the piece. At the end, I recited a poem I wrote and stripped down to my panties. I left the panties on because there’s always change in the future. It was a smashing success, if I do say so myself, and I have found myself thinking about that performance when I contemplated today’s blog entry.
Obviously, this is a time of great change for me. The problem is, the old behaviors no longer work for me, but I don’t have anything with which to replace them yet. There was a glitch with my mother’s credit card for an auto pay (for, ironically enough, auto insurance). I was pretty clear that she needed to take care of it because it’s her credit card, damn it. She, however, has a thing about doing this kind of thing. She says it’s because of the time difference, but I know it is more than that. At any rate, she called last night to talk about it, and I–oh, wait.
I had my therapy session yesterday morning. I wrote a letter in response to my mother’s letter (while studiously ignoring my father’s letter). For the most part, I am going to tell my mom that we should talk about it in person the next time she is in the States. Then, my therapist and I talked about my mother’s reaction to any problem (playing out the worst-case scenario and coming up with a zillion reasons why she positively, absolutely cannot do anything about it). My therapist said that when my mom starts going into her programmed response, I need to think to myself, “Oh, this is my mother’s issue. It’s how she deals with things. It’s not personal.” Now, this is a great thing to observe. It really is my mother’s way of dealing with problems, and she is consistent in that she responds that way every damn time.
Back to the phone call. We started talking about who should take care of the problem. The problem being that her new card has a different number than the old one. She knew that because she had problems with it before, but she didn’t think about how it would affect her auto pays. She has many bills on auto pay, so it was a potential nightmare. I said because it was her card, she had to take care of it. She started whining (yes, whining) about why she couldn’t. First it was the time difference (I said to call the toll-free number at any time). Then, it was how she didn’t have time to sit on the phone and wait for fifteen minutes as she got transfered from person to person to person. I said she was pulling out the worst-case scenario, and I started getting angry. All thoughts of how it’s her issue and the way she deals with things flew right out of my head, and I fell back into my own habit of becoming stubborn, sullen, and recalcitrant. Then she talked about how she hurt this and hurt that and how it was hard to blah blah blah. She wanted me to call and then if I couldn’t handle it, she would see what she could do. That seemed backwards to me as I thought she should try first and then I would handle it if she couldn’t get it done.
I tried to stand firm, but she fucking wore me down, as usual. I agreed, grudgingly, that I would see what was up with the bank and then call the auto insurance first to take care of the problem (stanch the bleeding) and then take it from there. I said if worse came to worse, I could write checks for any overdue bills and then she could take care of the mess when she returned to MN. The weirdest thing is that after I explained the options, my mom repeated them back to me almost verbatim as if she hadn’t heard me. I kept saying that I had just said that, but she wouldn’t stop.
After I caved, she thanked me and said she was grateful for my help. I didn’t say anything because I felt as if I’d been battered into doing it. Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, she said my father wanted to talk to me. When she handed the phone to me, he started talking about the weather (it’s “very cold” there–around sixty). I was still seething at that point, so I didn’t say much. OK, to be honest, I also just did not want to talk to him, either. The strange thing is that he did not hear what I said, either. I mean that literally. It got me thinking that perhaps both my parents are so used to being in their own little worlds, they don’t know how to interact personally any more. I know both of them are losing their hearing to some degree, too. And, English is the third language for both of them, so there is that barrier as well. Still, I have to wonder if some mental faculties are slipping as well.
After the phone call, I was fuming at my mother. I hated the way she infantilized herself in order not to do something that made her uncomfortable. In addition, she refuses to use her credit card online, which makes things more difficult, indeed. So, she dismisses real solutions as well, which is frustrating, too. The thing is, I don’t like the fact that I recognize that I do a similar thing when faced with something unpleasant. I think of the worst-case scenario, and I let it freeze me. I dismiss one solution after the other, coming up with eleven-billionty reasons why I cannot do whatever it is in question. Oh, I was also pissed because I have asked my mother to give me power-of-attorney for situations such as this, and she never has.
Plus, I was discouraged because I fell so easily into old behaviors. Yes, I know that they are pretty ingrained and that I have had them for a lifetime. Still. Now that I have some awareness, I should be able to at least hold out for a minute before sliding right back into the old interaction patterns.
A few minutes later, my phone rang again. It was my brother. My mother had called him and asked him to help me with the problem. My brother suggested we set up online access to my mother’s account. Then, I could set up Bill Pay so the money would be drawn directly from the account rather than rely on a credit card. My brother is very good with pragmatic solutions to situations like this. He was going to set up the account, but he couldn’t because we don’t have the PIN for the account. So, I called the bank, pretended to be my mother, and set up the account. It turns out that the auto insurance is the only one done with the credit card, so nothing else was overdue. And, I took care of the auto insurance this morn–um, afternoon. It went very smoothly. In fact, dealing with the insurance company was a best-case scenario.
I’m discouraged at how enmeshed I am with my mother. I felt like I had no choice but to take care of this issue. This is another reason I have to be self-reliant–so I can choose whether I want to do something for her or not rather than feel forced into it. One thing I did choose to do for her was write a poem about the dragon for her book. See, her symbol is the dragon. It was the section of the book (her symbol paper) that gave us the most trouble. I have always liked the dragon, but I stayed away from it because it was my mother’s symbol. After receiving the quilt from Kel (which had dragons on it), I realized that I could reclaim the dragon. It means something completely different to me than it does to my mother, and that’s just the way it should be. She wrote her very first poem for her book, and it was about the dragon. She asked me from the start to write one of my own, but I refused. In the revisions, we had to pull a bunch of poems about the dragon due to copyright issues. I had been mulling over what the dragon meant to me, and I decided to write a short poem for my mother’s book. She liked it a lot, so it’s going to be published.
I chose to write the poem. I didn’t feel like I had to write it or that I couldn’t write it (the two extremes), and that is where I want to be with my mother for the most part. She is not going to change. Or, as my therapist said, I can’t expect her to change. I have to change my own behavior for my sake and deal with whatever fallout happens as a result. I’m having such a hard time with this because I am changing my identity. Many things I have taken to be written in stone are being erased with one fell swoop. I don’t deal well with change in general, and everything is changing now. I really am at a loss as to what to do.